Golf season is in full swing and golfers are looking for conditioning options to build strength, increase energy, and get in shape for their favourite sport.
For the most part, golf and Pilates share similar fundamentals requiring flexibility, spinal hips and shoulder
rotation, and core and gluteal strength.
For golfers looking to stay healthy on the
greens, Pilates is the ideal golfing partner.
While the golf-pro may help correct
swings and take strokes off a player's
game, the Pilates specialist can improve
a golfer's performance, stamina, and
stability. These changes can help clients
drive the ball farther and avoid the sandtrap
of fatigue and injury.
"Golf demands a delicate balance
of mental and physical skill," explains
President and CEO of Merrithew Health
& Fitness™ and avid golfer, Lindsay G.
Merrithew. "Pilates enables you to focus
on both through mind-body awareness
by gaining insight into the inseparable
connection between the physical and
psychological components of athletic
performance. Golfers can take their
physical performance to a higher level
by training their minds while training
Unlike other strength training regimens
traditionally designed for athletes,
Pilates focuses on proper sequences of
muscle use, thereby improving balance and alignment. Pilates helps
develop core strength, increase flexibility, assist with injury rehabilitation,
and creates balance throughout the entire body. The benefits
are endless. As a result, athletes can withstand rigorous training
regimes and ultimately improve their golf drive or baseball pitch,
prevent or recover from injury, and maintain an optimal weight for
their activity of choice.
"It's a form of overall strength and conditioning used in the development
of strong core muscles which also focuses on breathing,
balance, and range of motion," says Moira Merrithew, Executive
Director of Education for Merrithew Health & Fitness™ and its
premier brand STOTT PILATES®.
Interestingly, Pilates is more popular with women but has a
higher participation rate among males when related to golf-specific
training. According to Moira, the increase in range of movement results
in the potential for longer drives. The benefits of Pilates training
to the modern-day golf swing are recognized in many national golf
schools and coaches are implementing classes into their programs.
STOTT PILATES® Master Instructor Trainer Sally Belanger has
worked with athletes of all levels for more than a decade. "Over the
last five to ten years athletes of all levels have started to reap the
benefits of alternative methods of exercise to increase power, align
the body, and work the core muscles," she explains. "As a result,
strength trainers are seeking the means to learn the basics of Pilates
for their own training programs or they are calling upon certified
instructors who work one-on-one with their athletes. Athletes are
still training daily, but the focus on conventional weight training has
been complemented with the need to work on balance, flexibility,
core stability, and mental focus."
Regardless of the sport, Belanger adds that over time, athletes
will overuse certain muscles and find 'cheating patterns' or compensatory
patterns to perform their particular specific skills and
movements," Belanger explains. "Pilates and core training focuses
on the stabilizing muscles – if a joint is stabilized properly and moves
properly, then the sport skill or movement pattern becomes more
biomechanically efficient as the larger power-generating muscles
can do what they are supposed to do."
When it comes to golf-specific training, Pilates helps increase
hip stability, strengthen the deep abdominal muscles and upper
midback – all essential to improving on the green. Michael Hunt,
Golf Pro and Lead Master Instructor at the Jim McLean Golf School
adds: "Pilates helps strengthen the core, which is instrumental in the
golf game, and having a strong core allows you to set up to the ball
correctly and efficiently without pain. When you have the correct
address position, you have a better chance to swing correctly. When
you're swinging, because Pilates emphasizes initiating from the core
through the peripheral limbs, power is generated from the ground
up, which will lead to an increase in club head speed."
Hunt also believes Pilates helps in stretching your body. "Most
golfers I deal with are inflexible. In fact, Moira Merrithew and I
designed a specific program and set up golf-specific stretches, breathing
and exercises for any level golfer. Hand-eye coordination and
talent is great to have in golf, but the stronger and more flexible your
body is – the better. That's where Pilates comes into play, literally."
Hunt tries to get his students involved in some type of exercise
and stretching before hitting the green. "I think the two most popular
forms of exercise for golfers right now are yoga and Pilates. A golfer
will see a huge improvement in their game through Pilates."
STOTT PILATES® has a unique approach to athletic conditioning
which has been developed over the years specifically for athletes
because it focuses on the deeper muscle groups, or local stabilizers,
to find stability and strength. These are key when controlling joint
movement and sustaining the stability of the joints that can often
be damaged through repetitive and high-demand training. As well,
the physical awareness that the athlete gains through a strong Pilates
program can aid in their movement control enabling them to
increase their level of performance.
"Pilates works on developing kinesthetic awareness of the body,
or where it is in relationship to itself, and the world around it. It also
focuses on good postural alignment which will help an individual
perform a movement efficiently, thus reducing the amount of unnecessary
strain on the muscles and joints. Specific strengthening
exercises will also help to balance the muscles around a joint and
balance pairs of muscles that support the joints," adds Moira. "Pilates
will also focus on finding as much symmetry as possible in the
Most sports focus on one side or movement in a specific plane of
motion. Throwing and shooting sports will often have a dominant
side, while sports like running or triathlon focus mostly on movement
in the sagital plane. Core training or Pilates helps to strengthen
and find stability in all planes of motion as well as an equal balance
on both sides of the body.
Matt Nichol, an industry-leading performance coach who is
renowned for his innovative approach to training, nutrition, and
lifestyle and has helped hundreds of professional and Olympic
athletes achieve superior levels of performance. He says Pilates
training is an excellent complimentary form of training for his
"I believe that any athlete could benefit in some degree from
supplementary Pilates training. The majority of my clientele are NHL
hockey players and this sport in particular places huge demands on
the spine and pelvis. Hockey players need to make sure that they
have superior levels of pelvis stability and endurance of the muscles
that stabilize the core in order to ensure healthy performance. Pilates
training is an excellent way to re-enforce this."